Rant for the week: ISPs and Pay-TV providers!


angry man- smaller
**Warning – rant follows**

I apologize in advance to all those readers residing outside Australia. This *rant” is specific to the Australian industries… although, I’m sure most of you will have similar stories to tell:

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):

ISPHere in the land of Oz, our telephone system is owned and run by one huge telecommunications company, Telstra; exchanges, cabling, you name it, if its to do with telephony, it’s controlled by Telstra. Telstra was originally government owned and run but has been completely privatized since 2006. Unfortunately, the good ole red tape, so often associated with government enterprise, remains rampant to this day. Changing ISPs can, and does, take up to 3 or 4 days… at times even longer. I confess to knowing very little about how all this all works but, I am guessing that changing ISPs would merely involve an exercise in button pressing… maybe a few minor software adjustments too. Surely nothing which should take such an inordinate amount of time. When you query this with your new ISP they will invariably answer with just one word… Telstra!

Recently, I’ve been looking at changing my ISP and was shocked to find that three previously independently operated services have now been gobbled up by another, known as iiNet. So, our choices have been effectively reduced from 8 viable options to just 4 (one of which is Telstra itself, so just 3 in reality). This has tended to create a non-competitive environment with very little variation between the ranges of plans on offer…  and that brings me to the main crux of this particular rant.

Most plans here are based around some sort of data limit, except for the more expensive ‘unlimited’ plans of course. Once upon a time, all the ISPs, except one, counted only downloaded data. Now, they all, bar none, count data in both directions, down and up. All these plans also involve a penalty for exceeding the set data limit, either by way of exorbitant surcharges or a huge reduction in connection speed (known as ‘shaping’). Now, I can accept and live with the former… after all, down or up, both involve bandwidth. But the latter has me utterly perplexed… here’s why.


If I am to be penalized for consuming more than my monthly allowance, why is there no converse reward for consuming less… why is any unused portion not credited and carried over? For example; my current monthly data limit is 60GB. Say in January I use 45GB, why is the unused 15GB not carried over and added to my starting allowance for February, and so on. I could happily accept the penalties for over-use if I were being equally rewarded for under-use. Is it just me or does this reek of one-way traffic (if you’ll pardon the pun). And I seriously doubt that any ISPs will stray from the common path anytime in the near future… does the word ‘collusion’ ring any bells!

I’m still considering my options by the way, but at the moment it looks like I might end up going with iiNet.

Pay-TV Providers:

Pay-TVPay-TV first kicked off here in the mid 1990s with two providers; Foxtel servicing the bigger cities, and Austar servicing smaller and more remote populations via satellite. Just recently (May, 2012), Austar was acquired by Foxtel, so we went from only two Pay-TV providers to just one… and I thought two was bad enough – talk about your monopoly! To add even more salt to the wound, guess who owns 50% of Foxtel… yep, Telstra!

I’ve been an Austar subscriber since its inception. In those early days there were very few ads and the monthly subscription was quite reasonable. Today, the number of subscribers is in the hundreds of thousands (if not millions), advertizing has exploded to the point where it rivals free-to-air TV, and the monthly subscription has more than trebled. Is it just me or does that not seem totally incongruous? Foxtel’s revenue stream has grown massively over the years, compliments of huge increases in the subscriber base and advertising content, yet the price to the home consumer has more than trebled? Even allowing for inflation (or increases in CPI), shouldn’t it be getting cheaper? Or at least maintaining the status quo, certainly nowhere near as expensive as it has now become.


I was always under the impression that the huge advantage of Pay-TV is that a subscription based service would not need to rely so heavily on advertising as a source of revenue… how wrong was I. As for ‘quality’ of content; well, if… repeating shows a squillion times over, swapping the very same shows around between channels and then repeating them all over again, and riddling them all with incessant ad breaks…  can be considered quality – then yes, there is lots of quality.

I cut back my Pay-TV service dramatically about 12 months ago, retaining only the basic package plus sports channels. This resulted in a price drop from around $124.00 per month to just over $60.00 per month… money well saved. If it wasn’t for the live sports I would scrap it altogether. I can watch as many ads on free-to-air as I want, without having to pay for the privilege.

**End rant**

As I said in the preamble; even though these issues may not exactly apply in your country, I’m sure there will be similar annoyances/frustrations involved. Let us know by submitting a comment.

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

17 Comments

  1. All of these issues do apply in my U.S. state of Louisiana. After 10 years of satellite service, I could no longer justify the outrageous cost of $115.00 per month for mostly porn movies all night, and the same movies moved around during the day (as you described), so I cancelled the service. Now, I watch what I can online. Of course, my state’s greedy (paid off) republican government will not let me see live newscasts.

    Thank you so much for this excellent rant.

  2. Could be worse Jim-Where I live in New Jersey,internet is available from ONE phone Company (Centurylink).
    TV is available from ONE cable provider (Service Electric) translation: rinky dink-but they do offer internet,or so they call it.
    The Dish/Direct TV thing isn’t much better.
    My solution was internet/phone from Centurylink (10Megs) with unlimited long distance($77 per month),
    a Vizio TV with internet apps.,and a Roku for the kid. But man,I feel your pain!!

  3. It’s pretty much the same thing over here in the US. Some of the larger urban areas, like NYC, probably have more options available to them, but where I live in New Jersey, my only TV option is Comcast. I do have two satellite options (DirecTV and Dish) but due to the trees, I wouldn’t be able to get reception, so those options are off the table for me. I have one option left. I also use the same provider for internet. I do have ONE other internet option, Verizon DSL, and I had it already, but it was crap. SOOOO slow and the connection was awful. They have a fast fiber network as well, but only built it out in some select areas, mine NOT being one of them, so that’s out for me as well. So where I am, my only option is the cable operator, and my bill is suddenly up to $200.00 per month, GOOD GRIEF!!! That is complete insanity for TV and internet service. I don’t even have the best packages. Now I hear some of the other cable companies in the country are thinking of going back to usage based internet service, sort of like back in the old days when everyone had dial-up and you had to pay by the minute on your phone line. My cable co. does have internet caps, but it’s 250gb per month, which is a LOT. I personally would never go anywhere near that amount. I’m usually between 3 and 6 GB/month and that’s with uploading tons of photos, streaming some things, etc..I just hope they don’t start changing that.

  4. i might as well join the tirade..here in dallas, tx we have time warner cable with NO competition and every few months it seems they increase their rates a dollar or so with no explanation as to why..but since they are the only game in town unless u want to change to satellite and i doubt they would be much better.

    • Absolutely Chet. Our subs increase by $2.00 regularly, every few months or so… we get nothing extra and zero explanation.

      I’m currently using one of their old SD set top boxes. This is what they are asking for a newer HD box: $14.95 extra per month. A further $5.00 per month if you actually want to view the HD channels. Plus a setting up fee of $100.00… are they serious!!

      I calculate that in ten years time that box would have cost around $2500.00…. and that’s the absolute minimum, provided the fees do not escalate over that time. There is no way I am going to voluntarily upgrade… ever!! 🙂

    • Hey Frits – $60 per month for 3GB? I pay $60 per month for 60GB, that’s 20 times as much data for the same money.

      I think that’s about the most expensive plans I have ever seen. Seriously Frits, you need to shop around mate, check out this site: http://bc.whirlpool.net.au/bc/?action=list&loc=3 …it lists all ISPs and all their plans. Just click on the name of an ISP to view details and compare.

      Cheers mate… Jim

  5. Hi from OZ. There is one ISP here that is not listed in Whirlpool–One Seniors .com.au. When I used them last their plans all had unlimited usage and their plan prices were based on various Bundle combos and line speed. They were using Bandspace wholesaled from Optus. Cheers, John.

    • Hey John – One Seniors broadband pricing is excellent but there is a catch; the plan includes compulsory phone bundling at an exorbitant $50.00 per month plus excessive call charges. When you add it all up, they are actually no cheaper overall… probably even more expensive.

      Cheers… Jim

  6. Hi Mate , here in Victoria .Australia. we a have a firm called “Speedweb” which is direct wireless ,in other words I have a 10″ square box on my
    roof which of all things is called a ‘Radio’ the cost of plans vary but presently I am paying $39 [Aud] per month. for 15Gigs on peak [PM] and 30Gigs offpeak [AM] this works out reasonably well usually but this month I will probably go over my quota by a Gig or so even so that is still billed at $10 per Gig over…I don’t usually go over the limit but this month has been horrific with the Bushfires so close there has been that much traffic thru my machines with Maps ,Photos , emails etc flowing back and forth , but all in all I still think it is quite reasonable !
    OH ! AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY FOR NEXT TUESDAY you don’t sound a day over 30. [Yeh right!] ejgippy.

    • Hey EJ – Been receiving your pics of the bushfires, scary stuff!! You are on a pretty sweet deal through Speedweb, shame they are so localized. Unfortunately, we do not have an equivalent here.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes mate… nothing wrong with your memory! 🙂

      Cheers mate… Jim

  7. In Australia we actually started with THREE cable providers – you forgot about Optus and their contribution. It lasted for awhile and was then merged with Foxtel in the end. Australia was only ever a re-seller of Foxtel programming. The reason we are stuck with a monopoly now is purely to do with population density. If they managed to cover the whole of Australia the maximum number of consumers is 21 million ( actually far less if households are counted ) and in the USA you cover that many in one state alone. It is a wonder we ever got cable TV at all…….

    • Hey Grant – In Australia we actually started with FOUR Pay-TV providers (NOT “cable” providers) – you forgot about Galaxy (the very first of all) and their contribution. I didn’t “forget” about anyone. This article was not presented as a factual history of Australian Pay-TV, bit players who departed the scene eons ago simply hold no relevancy.

      Actually, of the 50 states in the USA; 2 have a larger population than Oz, 2 are thereabouts, and all the rest (46 of them) are well under Australia’s population.

      Cheers… Jim

  8. Hi Jim,

    I had been with Telstra for years, up to a few months ago when we moved house half a km (Gold Coast)………had a wireless 4G dongle which was still on 3G
    as 4G was only available 5km radius from Brisbane CBD.
    Telstra continued to tell me that ADSL was unavailable, in the end I contacted iPrimus, signed up, got ADSL 500G per month and a rent-free land-line phone, free local calls, free Aussie-wide calls, for less cost than Telstra broadband. Of course, a Telstra land-line phone was an extra to their broadband.
    iPrimus techies are in Oz, so no messing with overseas “””help line”””’ as with Telstra.

    Kind regards,
    John D Lord………….(ex FBB)